SD › Best Places to Stay in The Cayman Islands
Updated: January 24, 2023
Our Favorite Cayman Islands Hotels
• 5-Star Hotel: Ritz-Carlton
• Boutique Hotel: Palm Heights
• Cheap Hotel: Hampton Grand Cayman
• Family Hotel: Kimpton Seafire
• Best Pool: Westin Seven Mile Beach
• Best Dive Resort: Compass Point Dive Resort
• Near Airport: Grand Cayman Marriott
The Best Area to Stay in the Cayman Islands
Set in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba and west of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands are an incredibly popular beach holiday destination, and for good reason. The islands are politically stable, safe, English-speaking, well-developed, and feature incredible beaches, diving, snorkeling and fishing. The islands have been a British colony since 1670, though largely self-governing today, with one of the highest standards of living in the region. The population is just under 70,000, but with only around half native Caymanian (of mixed African and European ancestry) – everyone else has come to the islands to work and take advantage of its booming tourist economy and offshore finance industry.
The biggest island by far is Grand Cayman, and this is travelers most often stay. It’s where most locals live, where the main airport is located, as well as the capital, George Town. It’s also home to the Cayman’s biggest attraction, Seven Mile Beach, where most of the hotels are – most visitors end up here. There’s not a lot of accommodation in George Town itself (it’s very close to Seven Mile Beach), though it retains some colonial history and is the best place to shop on the islands. If you want to get away from the main tourist zones, there are a few places to stay in historic Bodden Town, on the south side of the island, on the more remote East End, and up at Rum Point (North End). It’s a small island, though – around 22 miles (35km) long – and it’s easy to see everything in a day by car. The biggest attractions lie offshore, however, from coral reefs to wreck dives and Stingray City, a shallow sandbar in the North Sound of Grand Cayman – the site is literally inundated with hundreds of huge stingrays eager to be fed by daily boat-trippers.
It’s worth considering the two other islands, both short flights from Grand Cayman: Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Both offer great diving, the chance to get off the tourist trail, and a far more remote feel than the congested main island.
Cayman Islands Travel Tips
- Unless you expect to spend the whole time on the beach, you’ll need to rent a car for a least a day to see the whole of Grand Cayman – all the major rental companies have a presence on the island. If you’re staying on Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, though the islands are small it’s useful to have a rental car, since everything is spread out and you’ll likely be stuck without one. Try Little Cayman Car Rentals, or on Cayman Brac, CB Rent –A-Car.
- Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport is the territory’s primary international gateway, just 5 minutes’ drive from downtown George Town. If you’re not renting a car, just take a taxi (it’s about $25 to Seven Mile Beach). Travelers heading to Cayman Brac or Little Cayman will have to fly through Owen Roberts (though there are seasonal non-stop flights from Miami to Cayman Brac).
- Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac do have a public minibus service, but it’s far more convenient to rent a car if you intend to do a lot of exploring. Zipping between Seven Mile Beach and George Town (where the main bus station is located) is relatively easy (you can just wave the bus down), and is only CI$2 per trip.
- The Cayman Islands Dollar (KYD, but usually just denoted with a $ sign, or CI$), divided into 100 cents, is the official currency on the islands. Because it’s pegged to the US dollar (1 Cayman Dollar = US$1.20), US dollars are accepted almost everywhere, so Americans are unlikely to need to change money. Most hotels and restaurants use a rate of US$1 to 80 Cayman cents, which isn’t too bad (officially it’s 83 cents), though you will usually get change in Cayman Island dollars. Credit cards are accepted everywhere, but other international currencies are not.
- A 13% “Tourist Accommodation Tax” is added to all room rates in Cayman Islands. Timeshares are subject to the flat tax of US$10/day.
- The Cayman Islands’ rainy season runs from May to October, with the dry season November to April, but this is a just a general guide – it never rains heavily, typically just brief afternoon showers in summer. The average temperature is a lovely 75°F (24°C) in winter and 86°F (30°C) degrees in summer.
- The official Cayman Islands tourist website
The Best Places to Stay in The Cayman Islands
- Best Luxury Hotels in The Cayman Islands
Kimpton Seafire • ONE Canal Point • The Ritz-Carlton • Westin Seven Mile Beach • Caribbean Club • Coral Stone Club
- Best Boutique Hotels in The Cayman Islands
The Locale • Palm Heights • Le Soleil d’Or • Little Cayman Beach Resort
- Best B&B in The Cayman Islands
Shangri-La Inn & Suites
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels in the Cayman Islands
Hampton Grand Cayman • Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman • Sunshine Suites • Turtle Nest Inn
Best Places in The Cayman Islands for…
- Best Place to Stay for Beaches: Seven Mile Beach
Though locals will tell you there are great beaches – with far fewer tourists and development – elsewhere in Grand Cayman and on Little Cayman, the truth is that Seven Mile Beach cannot be beat. While the beach is lined with hotels and can seem busy, there’s good reason for its popularity; miles of gorgeous white sand and clear, warm water. It’s also very long (6 miles plus, despite the name), and there’s always a quiet stretch to be found somewhere, even on busy days. If your primary aim is to spend most of your days on the beach, swimming, suntanning, and having a good time in the evening, plan to stay on Seven Mile Beach.
- Most Romantic Destination: Little Cayman or Cayman Brac
Couples will find much to enjoy on Seven Mile Beach or the lesser-visited parts of Grand Cayman, but for a really romantic getaway consider the smaller islands of Little Cayman or Cayman Brac. Accommodation on both primarily consists of holiday homes on the beach or on tranquil sections of coast – the islands themselves see a fraction of Grand Cayman’s visitors and the locals are especially friendly. You can still enjoy beaches, diving, snorkeling, caving and hiking in protected forests on these islands, but you’ll usually be alone – think sundown drinks or picnics on the beach, low key bars and restaurants, pristine reefs, and rare Cayman parrots (on Brac).
- Best Place for Nightlife: Seven Mile Beach and George Town
The best nightlife in the Caymans can generally be found on Seven Mile Beach (or in nearby Camana Bay), amidst the hotels and resorts, though George Town also contains some great bars where you are more likely to meet locals. On Seven Mile Beach we like the cocktails at Backroom cigar bar (smoking is allowed here); The Bird at the southern end of the beach (known for its fried chicken sandwiches); Coccoloba Bar, which is right on the sand and serves excellent Mexican food and margaritas; and Craft F&B Co, which serves craft beers, including some IPAs from the US and Canada. For a fancy night out, hit the bars in the Ritz Carlton; the Silver Palm Lounge offers cocktails and live entertainment at the weekends, while Bar Jack on the beach is known for its piña coladas and sunset views. In Camana Bay check out Next Door, which offers cocktails with real herbal ingredients used in traditional Caymanian bush medicine. In George Town there’s Cayman Cabana right on the waterfront, My Bar at Sunset House (just south of downtown), and Sandbar, which specializes in daiquiri cocktails.
• The legal drinking age in the Cayman Islands is 18. Don’t be tempted to drink and drive – local police often conduct random checks and the penalties are severe.
• Bars, clubs and restaurants stop serving alcohol at midnight on Saturdays and Sundays – there’s no dancing or live music on Sundays in the Caymans. Bars otherwise have to close at 1am on other nights. You are now able to buy alcohol in stores on Sundays between 1pm and 7pm (Mon–Sat it’s 10am–10pm).
- Best Place for Shopping: George Town
Grand Cayman is a popular place to shop, as you’ll soon realize when cruise ships dock off George Town and the streets become packed with browsers. The usual duty-free and luxury goods are on offer, plus local arts and crafts, toys, Caymanite jewelry (made from stone only found here), hand-woven thatch products, traditional Cayman sea salt, and artisanal jams, jellies, and hot sauces. George Town is overall the best place to shop (though you’ll see plenty of stores on the Seven Mile Beach strip, mostly selling clothes and beach wear). South Church Street (along the waterfront) features Bayshore Mall and Island Plaza, the Cayman Craft Market, and the tropical fashions at Blue Iguana Boutique. Other popular stores include Rockys Diamond Gallery, Vy’s Closet Lingerie Boutique, and Cayman Gifts & Souvenirs.
- Best Place to get off the Beaten Path: Cayman Brac or East End
On Grand Cayman, head out to the East End to lose most of the tourists. On the coast here there are some wonderfully remote resorts and hotels, empty beaches, and plenty of opportunities to explore the Caymans’ less-visited reefs and dive sites, just offshore. Inland there’s the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, home of the rare Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. To get a more rustic Caribbean vibe, take the 30-minute flight to Cayman Brac, one of Grand Cayman’s sister islands; home to caves, a dramatic limestone ridge, hiking trails, Cayman parrots, and friendly locals. The accommodation here is primarily vacation homes, rentals, and small hotels.
- Best Place for Diving: Little Cayman, East End
There’s good diving and snorkeling all around the Cayman Islands (Stingray City is the most famous site), but there are a couple of areas especially favored by scuba divers. The East End of Grand Cayman is close to some of the best dive sites, with hotels such as Compass Point Dive Resort set up for divers. Ocean Frontiers dive shop has even created the “Green Short Challenge” for scuba divers to visit each of the 55 East End dive sites. There are spectacular wall dives (which is what the Caymans are really known for), sensational visibility up to 150ft, healthy coral colonies, coral towers, and heaps of marine life (sharks and large groupers are common). The smaller island of Little Cayman is also a diving hot spot – it’s a little harder to get to (a 30-minute flight from Grand Cayman), but you’ll be rewarded by pristine reefs and much smaller groups of divers. The “Bloody Bay Wall” (which starts at 20ft/6m and drops off to 1,000ft/304m) and Jackson’s Bight (aka Jackson’s Wall) are legendary dive sites here, with vertical walls, coral gardens, and a class=”darklink” huge range of marine life. Most of the hotels here are set up for divers.
The 6 Best Places in The Cayman Islands for Tourists
1. Seven Mile Beach
Though it’s actually closer to 6 miles (9.7km) long, Seven Mile Beach is justly regarded as one of the finest beaches in the Caribbean. No surprise that this is where most of Grand Cayman’s accommodation and resorts are located, and where most visitors stay. It’s a gorgeous swathe of white coral sand, with small patches of reef offshore in generally calm, turquoise waters perfect for snorkeling. All the usual water sports are on offer here, including parasailing. A few blocks inland there’s the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, which contains a surprisingly rich collection of modern and contemporary art from Caymanian artists. Nearby, live shows take place at the Harquail Theatre.
Offshore, West Bay is one of the best places for reef dives, with lots of coral and fish to be seen – the calmness and generally excellent visibility make this area perfect for families and beginners, as well as snorkelers. At the northern end of the strip, the section known as West Bay Beach is close to the USS Kittiwake, a decommissioned US naval ship sunk here in 2011 to create an artificial reef.
• If you’re looking for a classic Caribbean beach holiday, you won’t need to stray to far from Seven Mile Beach – there’s a class=”darklink” huge range of dining, drinking, and entertainment options, and the capital, George Town is a short bus or taxi ride away. It’s easy to arrange a rental car if you feel like spending a day exploring further afield. Seven Mile Beach is also convenient for the attractions in West Bay, Camana Bay, and in the North Sound:
The adjacent community of West Bay is home to several attractions (best explored on tours or by car): the small patch of jagged black limestone formations at “Hell” (which has it’s own gift shop and service station); and the Cayman Turtle Centre, where you can interact with the turtles. Staying on the coast up here is much quieter than Seven Mile Beach (though there’s no sand), but there are a few good options; we recommend Shangri-La Inn & Suites.
Just inland from Seven Mile Beach, facing North Sound, is Camana Bay, a small community that’s known for its shopping mall and waterside restaurants (there’s a series of marinas and waterways here). Depending on where you’re staying on the beach, it’s possible to walk to Camana Bay, but it’s otherwise a short taxi ride. The Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman is on this side, with a tiny man-made beach facing North Sound, but you’ll need a car to make the most of staying here.
Several operators offer trips to Stingray City in the North Sound from Seven Mile Beach (which include transport to the dock). Grand Cayman’s most popular offshore attraction is quite the experience. Boats anchor off a couple of sand banks in shallow water in the middle of the sound – as you wade around, hordes of huge stingrays swoop in, hoping to be fed. It’s all perfectly safe provided you don’t touch them and watch where you step; though the stingrays seem tame and are not aggressive, these are wild marine animals. (It’s thought that in the 1980s fishermen would clean fish and squid in the area and that the stingrays began to associate the sound of boats with food.) For divers, the North Sound offers more reef dives and spectacular wall dives.
• Dependable operators include Captain Marvins and Cayman Turtle Divers for diving, and Stingray City Cayman Islands.
- The Best Hotels in Seven Mile Beach
Grand Cayman Marriott • Hotel phone: +1 345 949 0088
Kimpton Seafire • Hotel phone: +1 800 546 7866
The Locale • Hotel phone: +1 866 345 7829
ONE Canal Point • Hotel phone: +1 800 722 5359
Palm Heights • Hotel phone: +1 345 949 1234
The Ritz-Carlton • Hotel phone: +1 345 943 9000
Westin Seven Mile Beach • Hotel phone: +1 345 945 3800
Caribbean Club • Hotel phone: +1 345 623 4500
Coral Stone Club • Hotel phone: +1 888 927 2322
Crescent Point Resort • Hotel phone: +1 345 945 2243
Villas of the Galleon • Hotel phone: +1 866 665 4696
- Best Midrange Hotels
Hampton Grand Cayman • Hotel phone: +1 345 945 7300
Sunshine Suites • Hotel phone: +1 345 949 3000
2. George Town
The capital of the Cayman Islands, George Town lies a short drive or bus ride south from Seven Mile Beach. Its compact downtown area is worth exploring for half a day or so for its historic and cultural attractions, though the biggest draw for most visitors is the array of luxury and duty-free shopping on offer. George Town is also where cruise ship passengers disembark, so it tends to get mobbed on days when ships are in port. The main cultural attraction is the Cayman Islands National Museum, housed in the Old Courts Building, which chronicles the human and natural history of the islands and includes the 18th-century Old Gaol, with some of the former inmates graffiti intact. There’s also the restored Fort George site, though there’s not much left of the original fortifications. Fans of rum and vodka can also take an informative tour of Cayman Spirits Co distillery, and there’s a farmers’ market open Monday to Saturday (from 7.30am) on Huldah Avenue, selling local handicrafts, baked goods, local fruit, coconuts, and more.
• There’s not a lot of accommodation in George Town itself (being so close to Seven Mile Beach), though you will find some apartment and condo rentals along the waterfront. Just to the south is Sunset House hotel, popular with divers.
3. Bodden Town
Some 10 miles (16km) east from George Town, Bodden Town and the surrounding districts make for an interesting day-trip, especially for history buffs. More like a village today, Bodden Town was the first capital of the Cayman Islands and still contains remnants of its past, notably its old defensive wall and cannon, the restored 1830s Guard House, and 18th-century Mission House, one of the oldest buildings in the Caymans (though the original was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, it was faithfully rebuilt). Tours provide a window into 18th-century island life.
Nearby in Savannah is Pedro St. James, a beautiful 17th-century plantation house full of period furniture and authentic Caymanian artifacts. It’s also known as being the islands’ “Birthplace of Democracy” thanks to a meeting that took place here in 1831 to form the first elected parliament of the territory. The area around the house is known for its poinciana trees, which bloom bright red from late-May to early-August. Staying here makes for a real contrast with Seven Mile Beach, as it still feels like an old Caribbean town, with rustic beaches (Coe Wood Beach and Governor Russell Beach) and very few tourists. You’ll need to rent a car, though, and your choice of restaurants will be fairly limited without a drive into George Town.
- The Best Hotels in Bodden Town
Black Urchin • Hotel phone: +1 833 462 2962
Sea Palm Villas • Hotel phone: +1 345 329 4274
- Best Midrange Hotels
Turtle Nest Inn • Hotel phone: +1 345 947 8665
4. East End
The far East End of Grand Cayman is the most undeveloped part of the island, perfect for exploring natural (and often deserted) beaches; Colliers Public Beach is the best one if you’re not staying here. It’s easily visited on a day-trip (by rental car) from Seven Mile Beach, but you can also stay at some tranquil resorts – a good idea if you want to skip the major resorts and tourist areas, or if you just want to scuba dive. The East End offers some of the Cayman’s best diving spots, most of them just short boat rides from the hotel beaches (contact Diving Ocean Frontiers). The current East End Light at Gorling Bluff dates back to the 1930s, and has become a local landmark, part of East End Lighthouse Park. There are several attractions inland too. The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, set around a tranquil lake, preserves the endangered Grand Cayman blue iguana and includes several gardens, 10 orchid species, 57 butterfly species, and woodland trails. You can also hike the 4.6-mile Mastic Trail through the subtropical forest that covers the central part of the island – you’ll see lots of birds (including Cayman parrots), lizards, snakes, and agoutis – but also hordes of mosquitoes, so spray up. It’s also very rocky so you need hiking boots/tough shoes. Failing that there’s the Cayman Parrot Sanctuary.
• There are several good seafood restaurants dotted along the east coast, and popular with locals at weekends. Recommended spots include Eagle Ray’s Dive Bar & Grill, Tukka, Herman’s Fish Fry (phone: +1 345 924 4007), and La Casita for Mexican food.
- The Best Hotels in East End
Wyndham Reef Resort • Hotel phone: +1 866 358 8455
Compass Point Dive Resort • Hotel phone: +1 345 640 4444
Morritt’s Resorts • Hotel phone: +1 345 947 7449
5. Cayman Brac
To really get off the beaten path, take the short flight from Grand Cayman to tiny Cayman Brac (“Brac” is Gaelic for bluff, named for the limestone ridge that runs down the center of the island to a class=”darklink” heady height of 150ft). Just 12 miles (19km) long and just over a mile (1.2km) wide, it’s a friendly place that rarely seems busy, with a mostly rugged karst landscape inhabited by all sorts of birds (including the Cayman parrot, brown boobies, and peregrine falcons) and lots of iguanas (around 2,000 people live here permanently). There are trails, caves, and excellent diving sites to explore – including steep seawalls, reefs and one famous wreck. This is a Russian frigate, built in the 1980s for the Cuban Navy and sunk here in 1996 to create an artificial reef (it has since been renamed “MV Captain Keith Tibbetts”).
There’s surprisingly a lot to see and do on the island (rent a car to make the most of it), but not much in the way of beaches; snorkeling and diving are the major water sports here. On land there’s the Heritage House in North East Bay, an authentic reproduction of an old Caymanian home. You can learn about island history at the Cayman Brac Museum (279 Stake Bay Road): turtling, ship-building, and the community’s long history of long-distance seafaring and fishing. You’ll also find a handful of artist’s galleries here, including SimoneS Art Gallery and Gordon Solomon. The island is also the main source of Caymanite, the unusual patterned rock that’s smoothed down and sold in shops.
• There are several places to eat and drink on the island, but be sure to visit Pioneer Bakery in Creek, to sample their freshly baked bread, coconut buns, and cinnamon rolls.
• The only way to get to Cayman Brac is to fly via Cayman Airways. Numerous daily flights zip across (30 minutes) from Grand Cayman to tiny Charles Kirkconnell International Airport, but there are also usually seasonal nonstop flights from Miami (check at caymanairways.com).
• Most visitors stay in apartment or beach house rentals here – there are not many hotels.
- The Best Hotels in Cayman Brac
Le Soleil d’Or • Hotel phone: +1 345 948 0555
The Alexander • Hotel phone: +1 345 547 1178
6. Little Cayman
Little Cayman is even smaller than Cayman Brac – around 10 miles (16km) long and 1 mile (1.6km) wide, and located just 5 miles/8km west of the Brac. It’s quite different to its neighbor, being dead flat (virtually at sea level) and with fewer than 200 inhabitants – feeling much more like a desert island. There’s no main settlement here: the only grocery store, gas station, bank, and clinic are all located near the airstrip on the south side of the island.
There are a few small and often empty beaches here (Point of Sand at the island’s eastern tip is one of the most beautiful), but the main draw is scuba diving – it’s one of the best places for it in the Caribbean, with flourishing reef systems all around. The most famous dive is the Bloody Bay Wall, featuring a stunning drop-off favored by sharks, stingrays, turtles and all sorts of pelagic fish. The other celebrated site is Jackson’s Bight (aka Jackson’s Wall) – both are on the north side of the island.
On land, Booby Pond is a pristine wetland that’s home to a large red-footed booby colony, and visitors can also kayak (or take a boat) over to tiny Owen Island, just off the south coast, where there’s a beautiful beach. The Little Cayman Museum does a decent job of charting the island’s history.
• Like Cayman Brac, the only way to get to Little Cayman is via Cayman Airways; flights from Grand Cayman often stop at Little Cayman before going on to Cayman Brac, meaning you can shuttle between the two.
• Most of the accommodation is within walking distance of the Edward Bodden Airfield. The island does have a couple of car rental operators, plus a minibus that works like taxi for trips to beaches, restaurants, or the airport.
- The Best Hotels in Little Cayman
Little Cayman Beach Resort • Hotel phone: +1 800 327 3835
Paradise Villas • Hotel phone: +1 345 948 0001
Pirates Point Resort • Hotel phone: +1 345 948 1010
Sir Turtle Beach Villas • Hotel phone: +1 305 454 7627
Southern Cross Club • Hotel phone: +1 345 948 1099
Other Cayman Islands Neighborhoods
We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail above, but with more time Rum Point in the North End is worth checking out (avoid weekends though when locals like to hangout here). Some 23 miles (38km) from George Town, there are several small beaches here, beginning with rustic Cayman Kai, a white-sand beach with rocky patches that’s rarely busy. Rum Point Beach itself is another small patch of sand, wonderfully shaded by casuarina trees and excellent for snorkeling. A little further south, Starfish Point is a shallow beach where large starfish can often be found just offshore. Our favorite hotel up here is the Rum Point Club Residences, but there are numerous vacation home rentals prefect for a quieter holiday – there’s not much choice when it comes to dining and drinking however.
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